Housing for the Mentally Ill was the driving issue for the formation of the Brookings Empowerment Project back in 2007. In our community, caregivers for mentally ill family members were coming to Brookings NAMI, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, asking what was going to happen to the family member they were caring for after they died, so members decided to do something. BEP became a 501c3 non-profit in 2012. We are a United Way funded agency and participate where we can in any of the United Way activities and training.
One of BEPs early members wrote: “I am the mother of a mentally ill son and he is living with me and I’m a widow and after I am gone, he would need a place to live and would need some guidance, so I think this facility is needed for these people.”
Both NAMI and resources in Brookings had no answers for her and other caretakers like her. Housing availability in Brookings was, and continues to be, an issue–not only for the mentally ill, but also for low income and median income families and individuals. The focus for BEP has been, and will continue to be, housing for the mentally ill, a subset of the overall housing concern in Brookings.
Since 2012, Brookings Empowerment has realized how difficult the housing issue is to solve, especially without our community being more aware of mental illness and its issues in our community. Thus, the organization has also focused on raising awareness with an annual Mental Health Forum. By increasing awareness of this opportunity to meet a need in our community, we believe we can build support for housing for the mentally ill.
In addition to our efforts to raise awareness, we also provide and develop individual support resources for caregivers and individuals with mental illness. This support take the form of scholarships to workshops, bus tokens to get to care, and resource materials for study.
Our next steps concerning housing in the community is to develop an overview of needs based on the experience and needs of our membership. As we develop that needs overview, I will be report on its status. We currently are working on information gathering and reaching out to other organizations in the community to collaborate with on this issue. Please continue to follow this blog and our facebook page for updates and references to other sources, materials and ideas we discover and develop.